Having lived in Paris for a considerable amount of time, I would say the number one question that people ask me is “if you only had one day in Paris, what would you do?” For so long, I thought it was an impossible question to answer. ONE DAY?! In Paris?!?! Why would anyone only spend one day in Paris? The thought was inconceivable. Until one day, I really started thinking about the question. People hadn’t been asking, “If I only had one day in Paris, what should I do?” but rather “What would you, Lisa, do with 24 hours in Paris?” Okay, to be fair, that’s still a really hard question. Paris is my favorite place in the world and I’ve never spent less than 3 days there at a time. But, with all this newly acquired free time that has been thrust upon us, I decided to think it through.
Disclaimer: Planning out the morning portion of this particular itinerary was tricky, because having lived less than a block from Notre Dame, my go-to way to start the day would have been to climb to the very top (and stopping, and climbing again, and stopping again, and so forth and so on…) to enjoy the view. Before the catastrophic fire that nearly destroyed the iconic monument, the view from the top of Notre Dame was my favorite high vantage point; however the building will be completely inaccessible for the foreseeable future, therefore, I had to pick a new starting place.
My Perfect Day in Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Starting off with a bit of exercise is never a bad idea, in my opinion! The Arc de Triomphe is the perfect place to admire the beauty of Parisian architecture, and also break a little sweat. The Arc de Triomphe was built by Napoleon as a monument to invincibility of the French army and its fearless leader (hint: the leader was Napoleon…), but it has developed into so much more since the 1800s. The Arc serves as a memorial for soldiers lost during many wars, particularly WWI and WWII. It is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, and remains of an unnamed soldier who died in World War One were laid to rest at its base. In addition to its incredible history, the Arc also has an incredible view! While most famous vantage looks straight down the Champs-Elysées, practically the entire city can be seen from atop the Arc. The Arc sits right in the center of twelve streets, and while this gives a panoramic view of the city, it can also make it a little tricky to get to the monument itself. Whatever you do, DO NOT try to cross the street! The roundabout surrounding the Arc is one of the most dangerous streets in Paris. In fact, so many cars circle this roundabout that at one point, the Arc had turned practically black from all of the exhaust, and had to be cleaned with bleach. Instead, there are two underground entrances to the Arc that can be found on the right side of the Champs-Elysées near the metro station and one on Grande Armée. Tickets must be bought to ascend the Arc, but none are needed to view the memorial.
Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac
It would be impossible to visit the Arc de Triomphe without strolling along the Champs Elysee afterward, but my first stop in a long list of beautiful shops and patisseries wouldn’t actually be along the avenue at all. Located five minutes walking distance from the Arc, La Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac is the only patisserie in Paris that I have found who makes madeleines in house! These tiny, shell-shaped, citrusy sponge cakes are my absolute favorite French dessert, and this place knows how to make them right. There’s no way I would pass up an opportunity to pick a few up for a little dessert later that evening.
Following my brief, madeleine-induced detour, I would wander my way down the Champs-Elysées. There are tons of great shopping spots along the grand avenue, but I would make a point to stop into Ladurée. Ladurée is a pâtisserie known worldwide for their beautiful and delicious macarons. The shop is just as beautiful as the macarons themselves, with gorgeous green and gold embellishments and a beautiful restaurant for brunch and tea. A few vanilla, raspberry, and champagne macarons would certainly be tucked away with my madeleines for later on.
Crêpe Avenue & Eglise Madeleine
After all of that time and effort I spent hauling my butt all the way up 284 stairs and then marching 3 kilometers down the Champs-Elysées, I am definitely going to arrive at the end of the avenue very hungry! I’m actually hungry just thinking about it… So before making my way through the Jardin de Tuileries, I would pay a visit to Crêpe Avenue. Located at 4 Rue de Surène in the 8th arrondissement, Crêpe Avenue has an amazing variety of crepes in an adorable atmosphere. Personally, I prefer galettes, otherwise known as savory crepes, with delicious, crispy buckwheat and however much cheese I can convince them to pile on top of my meat. After my meal, as a little bonus sightseeing, I would pop into the gorgeous baroque church, L’église de la Madeleine, which is located right next door!
Tuileries & Orangerie
With the Jardin des Tuileries just around the corner, now would be the perfect time to visit one of my favorite museums in Paris. Even though one of the most famous museums in the world is a few minutes away, I’m not talking about the Louvre. Instead of trekking my way through the vast fortress-turned-museum and inevitably ending up sitting in the corner of an exhibit with a map draped over my head in total and utter despair (that totally hasn’t happened… multiple times…) I would visit the Musée l’Orangerie. Located just inside of the Place de la Concorde entrance of Tuileries, the Musée l’Orangerie could be easily missed, but this well-hidden museum is one of the hidden gems of Paris. The museum is decked out with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, all of which are brilliant and dreamy in their own right; however, the crown jewel of the museum are the waterlilies. Claude Monet’s largest and most famous paintings are tucked away inside of this artistic treasure chest of a museum, housing eight panels, each two meters high and spanning 91 meters in length, arranged in 2 massive oval rooms. Monet himself helped with the architectural design of the building, requiring specific room sizes and shapes and also requiring skylights for observing the paintings in natural light, ensuring every viewer sees the paintings exactly how they were meant to be seen.
Monet’s breath-taking water lilies are the perfect segue into the natural beauty of the Jardin des Tuileries. Tuileries is both the oldest and the largest garden in Paris, spanning 55 acres of lush flora and fauna and beautiful fountains. One of the many gardens commissioned by Catherine de Medici, (or as I like to call her: the Badass Garden Bitch) this one is my favorite, but probably not for the reasons you might think; I love the goats! That’s right, GOATS. About 5 years ago, two goats were hired privately by the Louvre to mow the lawn at Tuileries and everyone loved them so much, there have been sheep and goats hanging out, munching on grass ever since!
Cap d’Ambre & Le Lithographe
All of the natural beauty of the gardens and the posh environment of the 1st arrondissement would have me in the mood for some fancy shopping! During my time at the Institut Catholique de Paris, I stumbled across the cutest little jewelry shop in the 6th arrondissement. Cap d’Ambre is about the size of my arms stretched out from wall to wall, but they are packed to the brim with gorgeous, one of a kind jewelry. And it also happens to be right down the street from one of my favorite restaurants, Le Lithographe. As traditionally French as a restaurant can get, Le Lithographe never misses the mark. This restaurant is the quintessential French cafe, serving classics like steak-frites, croque monsieur, salade nicoise, and more, with their menu changing weekly. The restaurant has an inside and outside section, both of which are very pleasant.
Eiffel Tower Picnic
After dinner, it’s time to relax! My favorite place to lounge in Paris is definitely the Eiffel tower. Toting a blanket, a bottle of wine, my macarons and my madeleines, I would find the perfect spot to sit on the Champs du Mars. Personally, I prefer to situate myself farther back, closer to the École Militaire, so that if I want to take any pictures, I can capture the whole tower in the frame. The Eiffel tower is beautiful at sunset, with streaks of orange, gold, blue, and sometimes purple. After the sun goes down and night falls, the tower lights up and sparkles for 5 minutes, every hour, on the hour! It is the most relaxing place to sit, drink a glass of wine after a long day of sightseeing.